Growing up I was treated with kid gloves. Anemic, skinny, small framed and a picky eater, my mom catered to my every whim and preferred foods (French fries, almost always). She saw me as her frail little girl…her youngest daughter. To be fair I was highly sensitive, very shy and terrified of everything. (Critters that fly, almost always.)
As good as it felt to be taken care of it also made me feel weak. I felt trapped. I was coddled and felt suppressed. For a long time I didn’t believe I could do things on my own and be an independent woman. I was afraid to leap because I was terrified to fall and fail. And that’s because Mami always held my hand. Instead of encouraging me to fly, she held my wings to protect me. Like the time she told me to abandon my studies at Phillips Academy Andover, a prestigious preparatory high school, when I was under review for poor grades. Or when she lamented that the stress of my new writing job could harm my mental health, so perhaps I should quit and return to teaching.
My mother doesn’t do this on purpose. Nurturing, catering, coddling, (over)protecting, and constantly doting: this is the way my mother shows her love. I get that now, yet I still rebel against the Sujeiry I was told to be. Because her protection created a co-dependent relationship that I internalize as weakness.
I don’t ask others for help. I feel like shit when I need something from someone or someone has to do something for me when I can’t do it for myself.
So I take three buses or pay for an Uber instead of asking for a ride. I take on too much work instead of building and solidifying a loyal team. I stay with my baby boy, Evan, 24/7 and work when he naps instead of asking his paternal grandparents to pick him up and babysit for the day. I cook, work, and coddle Evan when my mom visits from Charlotte instead of taking advantage of the extra hand. And when Mami does something for me (like rearranging my kitchen because my way is wrong) I feel inutil, useless.
Asking for help reminds me of that weak child. So I work hard to take care of myself. And when I fail (because we all fail sometimes) I feel weak again.
I know I have to nip this feeling in the bud. For myself and for my son. I have to remember I am not who I was taught to be. I must work on myself so I can embrace my upbringing, my mothers love and the way she gives love, and to believe that I’m independent and strong regardless of how much help I may need.
Although I am still fighting against the image of that frail, anemic girl who refused food, I know I am stronger that I believe. I even kill bugs. Sometimes.